Countdown to Christmas

When I was in 4th grade we held a Christmas program for our school. One of the songs in our program was The Christmas Candy Calendar Song, by Robert Maxwell. “It’s six pink peppermints ‘til Christmas,” we sang, “and there’s lots and lots of things for us to do.” With Christmas only six weeks 8502.away, I can’t help but think of that song—there is still a lot to do.

I remember one year when my wife and I felt rushed right up until Christmas Day. The tree stood stately glowing in the family room, but we rarely took the time to relax around it as a family. We had failed to prioritize our activities. Both of us commented that the holiday had come upon us too quickly and we hadn’t taken time to soak in the season—too many “things” on our to-do lists.

Some of you have the holidays figured out. You may already be finished with your shopping, have your gifts wrapped and placed under the tree, and your greeting cards and packages in the mail. That’s great. But what is it that makes the holidays memorable? Is it the gifts we give and receive, the big events we attend, or the cards in the mailbox? For most of us, it’s the little things we do as a family that we remember most—sledding in the park, building snowmen, sharing stories, and making hot cocoa. Here are a handful of things that can help you make the most of your holiday.

Plan ahead. If you aren’t already finished shopping and you love to shop the sales during the season, make a list of each person to whom you plan to give a gift. Decide how much you can reasonably afford to spend on gifts and stick to your budget.

Give thoughtful gifts. Try not to buy something just because it’s on sale. Consider the desires and needs of the people on your list and try to match your gift to each person. Great-priced sale items are good for your just-in-case gifts—for those times when guests arrive unexpectedly with gifts and you want to return the favor. Keep a few quality gifts on hand with universal appeal just in case. A quality pen, journal, calendar, or some fine Swiss chocolate can easily fit the bill.

Organize your holiday decorations. You probably already have your holiday décor organized, but if you’re like us, you’re bound to discover more things to tidy up as you go. While you’re trimming your tree, make a list of things you’d like to arrange differently. Perhaps your heirloom ornaments need a sturdier container, or you’d like a better way to roll up your lights. This is the time take note of the details so you can be prepared when it’s time to take them back down.

Plan your season’s greetings. Give the mail carriers plenty of time to deliver your warm wishes. Remember that the closer it gets to Christmas, the more harried the delivery services are going to be. Plan to have your greeting cards in the mail early this year. If you are mailing internationally, it may take several weeks for your packages to arrive at their destination. Be sure to plan accordingly. You’d rather have your gifts arrive too early than too late.

Plan your activities realistically. It’s fun to take the family out to holiday events. Perhaps you want to catch a play, listen to the symphony, or visit a community performance of Handel’s Messiah. These are all great things to do, but remember that you will also have family parties, neighborhood gatherings, unexpected guests, and your children’s school-related activities to squeeze into the next few weeks as well. It doesn’t take long to be buried in events. Along with your financial budget, decide how much time you want to spend away from home, so you can relax and enjoy your own holiday traditions.

Even if planning isn’t your strongest suit, making an effort to plan the next six weeks will be the best thing you do all season. With all you have to do, you’d hate to forget to sing Christmas carols around the tree, bake a pumpkin pie, or pick a purple tie for uncle Lou.

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